By Sij Ncube
HARARE, December 9, 2015 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s administration has failed to pay lecturers and other support staff at state universities for the past five months in what analysts say is a firm confirmation the Zanu PF government is insensitive to the plight of its public workers at a time Zanu PF has budgeted at least $3 million for its annual talk-shop presently going on in Victoria Falls.
The Zanu PF 15th annual conference opened on Monday until Sunday next week where nearly 7 000 cherry-picked delegates are expected to be feted, eating and sinking their teeth to the choicest of meats.
Expensive wines and whiskies, among other “eats” usually associated with the opulent lifestyle of its leadership, are part of the menu and so is beer for the party faithful.
Several cows, sheep, goats, wildlife and chickens have been donated for the week-long political jamboree as bootlickers fall over each other to appease Mugabe and his inner circle of the ruling party.
But critics note that while Zanu PF feasts, public workers at the state universities are wallowing in poverty due to non-payment of their monthly salaries.
Information at hand indicates lecturers and support staff at the country’s 13 university, including the former prestigious and oldest University of Zimbabwe, were last paid half salaries in August this year amid growing discontent among staff. They have not been paid for September, October, November and December, with Christmas less than two weeks away.
In an attempt to placate livid lecturers in the midst of marking end of year examinations, Jonathan Moyo, the minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Development, said in a statement Wednesday said his ministry has engaged the Finance and Economic Development ministry in desperate attempts to address the issue “as failure to pay university staff threatens Zim-Asset success.”
But critics point out at the lavish Zanu PF annual chin-gig at the hot resort town of Victoria Falls as a clear sign Mugabe’s party and administration has its priorities upside down. Instead of channelling the funds towards paying the university lecturers, Mugabe and Zanu PF, are content with winning and dinning while public workers at state universities faced a bleak festive season.
Ironically, Moyo and coterie of Mugabe’s cabinet ministers are enrolled at the University of Zimbabwe where they are doing law degrees.
“The government is well-nigh broke,” former sports and education minister, David Coltart told Radio VOP. “Hang in there for a rollercoaster.”
Maxwell Saungweme, a development analyst, said while there is no doubt that non-payment of salaries demoralises staff it would have the adverse effect of compromising the quality of education they provide.
“That they (Mugabe administration) hold a conference when the lecturers are not paid is a clear manifestation of how Zanu PF priorities are misplaced just as the misplaced as priorities of the government,” said Saungweme.
The government has also fired to pay civil servants their bonuses as promised by Mugabe in February this year amid revelations 80 % percent of the budget is gobbled by salaries at the expense of service delivery.
Soldiers were due to be the first batch of public servants to get their bonuses in November but they are still waiting as the government battles low revenue collections and a dip in pay as your earn due to job losses in the private sector.
“They focus on such issues as conferences bent to deal with issues of their party’s power matrix and they don’t focus on service delivery. They have money but can’t put it on service delivery and paying staff such as lecturers providing an important service education,”added Saungweme.
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for Tendai Biti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said the Zanu PF government was heartless as it prefers wining and dining while the generality of the population is estimated to be surviving with less than $2 a day.
“When we grew up government was this big thing with answers to the people’s problems but now the government is a poor caricature of what it should be. It is a pale ghost drowning in the chaos brought by Mugabe and his family.
“The incompetence of Zanu PF has become an art form -no one celebrates emptiness and futility quite like Zanu PF. Their conference will be historic in its non-achievement of addressing people’s issues. It is just a holiday jig for them to enjoy the fruits of uselessness,” said Mafume.
“They have missed the point as government by a wide margin. They will rather spend government money on Zanu PF conferences and themselves than the citizens of Zimbabwe. After this meeting they will be planning another, the voter has to wise up and realise that nothing good can come of the house that Mugabe has built. It is a long period of lamentations for the people of Zimbabwe .they are not even planning to buy food in the wake of the up-coming drought.”
More than two million people, mostly in rural areas are reportedly in urgent need of food relief due to serious food shortages blamed on poor rains.
Obert Gutu, the MDC-T spokesperson, added his party’s voice on the Zanu PF prioritisation of its annual conference instead of dealing with the outstanding issue of people’s daily toils such as failure to pay salaries of public workers.
“The Zanu PF annual conference in Victoria Falls this week as usual is an occasion to feast, drink and dance. It’s just another jamboree of obscene extravagance for the ruling elite amidst a sea of grinding poverty for the majority of Zimbabweans,” said Gutu.
“The economy will continue to implode in the coming year because the Zanu PF regime is utterly clueless regarding what precisely should be done to arrest the economic haemorrhage. Zanu PF is now irreparably damaged because of endless and mindless factionalism. That party now belongs to the archives of history; it is yesterday’s party. The only solution to the deepening political and socio – economic crisis in Zimbabwe is to have Zanu PF out of power. Nothing short of this will do.”
South African-based human rights activist, Thamsanqa Mlilo, added his voice on the issue, saying failure to pay lecturers and support staff on time reduced them to beggars.
“It can’t be a norm. This is very abnormal and unacceptable. Job security without financial reward amounts to slavery. It is in the best interest of the country to handsomely and consistently pay lecturers timeously. Let us protect the dignity and stature of our hard working professionals lest they become laughing stock of the society. The Minister must do something now to avert mass exodus which will greatly compromise quality of Zimbabwe education. This is not the time for “vanity” conferences or prestigious events. Such things are in bad taste and insensitive,” said Mlilo.